Princeton University students had the opportunity in a Princeton Atelier course last fall to collaborate with a team of professional writers and actors to develop the pilot for a new television comedy series, including contributing to plots and characters. One student’s idea led to the addition of a town goat. One wouldn’t usually expect that an undergraduate academic course at Princeton would require students to watch TV — a lot of TV. But for the course “Baby Wants Candy: Creating Comedy for Television,” students were asked to do just that, among a range of other research to develop smart, comedic television content for this collaborative project.
Led by critically acclaimed comedy writer Al Samuels, students participated in the in-process television pitch used by Samuels’ cutting-edge improvisation group, Baby Wants Candy, including finalizing concept and script and developing a strong pitch. Princeton alumni and writer/actor Tommy Dewey ’01 and comedy writer Scott Eckert ‘03 co-taught the course, helping students develop their own original TV concepts, desk bits, and online content.
Besides the mentorship given by Samuels, Eckert, and Dewey, the students learned from several Hollywood guests over the course of the semester. One week the class worked on character with Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover), discussed tone with Emmy-nominated Ellie Kemper ’02 (The Office, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bridesmaids), explored story with another Hollywood showrunner, and more. The course culminated in a live table read over Zoom in December with guest professional actors of an original TV comedy pilot, Backwater.
The Atelier course and faculty mentorship exposed students, who came from academic backgrounds varying from Computer Science to English, to the possibility of combining their unique stories and varied interests into a successful career in the creative arts.
“This has been a course that opened up the possibility of taking writing, which I love, and television, which I also love, and combining it into one. So that would be the dream — to be able to be a screenwriter.”
— Sydney Hwang ’24
The Princeton Atelier is offering the course again in Fall 2022.